When your team scores a touchdown the first time it touches the ball, it generally means you’re in for a good night.
That was certainly the case Friday night at Burlingame High School, as the Panther football team scored 27 first-quarter points and rolled from there to a 54-0 victory over the visiting Mt. Pleasant Cardinals.
The Panthers started their onslaught right away. After Mt. Pleasant lost 15 yards on its first possession, senior Savaun Brown returned a punt 37 yards for a score just over a minute in.
After the teams traded turnovers, the Burlingame defense again held the Cardinals to negative yardage on their next possession. Brown returned the ensuing punt to the one, and junior Curtis Lauti punched it in on the next play for a 13-0 Panthers lead.
Mt. Pleasant finally showed signs of life on its next drive, connecting on a 42-yard pass play to get into Burlingame territory. But the Panthers’ defense then pushed the Cardinals back once again, forcing a fourth-and-28 and another punt.
Burlingame turned that punt into points as well, with senior Alec Meredith scoring from five yards out after a long completion from senior Carlo Lopiccolo to senior Dimitri Rally got the Panthers deep into Mt. Pleasant territory.
On it went from there, as Burlingame forced turnovers the next two times the Cardinals had the ball and cashed both of them in. The starters were removed after the first quarter, and Brown, Lauti, Meredith, sophomore Devon Malashus, junior Youcef Benchohra and senior Gabe Hyman all got into the end zone in the first half. Hyman’s score came on a pass from the second-string quarterback, senior Nick Pina.
According to head coach John Philipopoulos, Mt. Pleasant went through multiple coaches during the offseason and does not have a junior varsity team. The Cardinals were winless last season and this year will play in the Blossom Valley Athletic League West Valley division, the BVAL’s third and lowest tier. Burlingame, by contrast, has made the playoffs eight consecutive years and plays in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay division, the PAL’s top level. This difference was abundantly clear from the beginning Friday night, and the Cardinals were completely overmatched.
A running clock was used throughout the second half, and Burlingame relied on exclusively junior varsity players after halftime. Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore Leo Bashaw scored on a short touchdown run for the final margin of victory.
Because this game ended up being more like a glorified scrimmage, the Panthers got a chance to work out some of their kinks against by far the weakest team they will face this season. Burlingame struggled at times holding onto the ball and avoiding pre-snap penalties, areas the Panthers will surely be trying to improve in going forward.
The defense, particularly the front seven, was stout, although the Mt. Pleasant offensive line offered little resistance. Offensively, look for the Panthers to be able to run and throw the ball effectively, with quarterback Lopiccolo and top running back Meredith returning for their second season as varsity starters.
The Panthers will get their first chance to show how much progress they’ve made next Friday, when they travel to Redwood City to take on Sequoia. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.